Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘Educated Risk’ Proves A Practical Move - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘Educated Risk’ Proves A Practical Move

Practical Move’s co-owner Pierre Amestoy, jr. and jockey Ramon Vazquez celebrate after winning the Grade II $400,000 San Felipe Stakes Saturday, March 4, 2023 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA. Benoit Photo Benoit Photo

Leslie Amestoy walked away from the OBS auction ring when bidding rose above $180,000. That was the budget she and her husband, Pierre, had considered for the son of Practical Joke, after all.

Minutes later, Pierre Amestoy returned to the table and showed his wife the sales ticket: he'd bought the colt for a final bid of $230,000.

“She was so happy we got him,” Pierre said, “but then she asked me, 'Do you think that was the right move?'”

Pierre paused.

Then his wife said: “Hey, that's his name! Practical Move.”

Fast forward to 11 months after the sale, and it becomes obvious that going above their expected price tag for the colt was a very “practical move” for the Amestoys. The colt won the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity in December to close out his juvenile season, and in his 3-year-old debut, Practical Move proved his mettle with a 2 ½-length win in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

In total, Practical Move has won three of his six career starts for earnings of $434,200, and in so doing, has likely earned himself a spot in the 2023 edition of the Kentucky Derby.

“This was our dream,” Leslie said after the San Felipe. “It's been our dream for years and we love the colt; we are so happy and we really think we have a great horse.”

Looking back at that experience in Ocala, Pierre explained his reasoning for continuing to bid on the colt after his wife had given up.

“It was our first trip to Ocala,” he said. “We spent a week there, and we saw so many horses, hundreds of horses. Actually, we found him the very first day, and we just kept coming back to him. He had all the pieces we were looking for: a speed sire, a distance dam, he had to be able to carry the scope through his size and length, and he had to work fast. As we went through the progression, he wowed us for such a big colt to have the turn of foot that he showed in his work (:10 ⅕).

“You know, we've bought a lot of horses through the years at Keeneland, Ruidoso, the California sales, so we're well-versed in the process. Sometimes there's an educated risk to take, and that's what we did.”

The Amestoys are not new to the horse racing industry. They have owned, bred, and raced both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses for multiple decades, but their primary success has come near their hometown of Albuquerque, N.M.

In the 1970s, Pierre followed his father and brothers around the racing circuit in New Mexico. The patriarch led his family of six children to enjoy horse racing: two of Pierre's brothers became successful trainers, while another became a jockey.

In 1975, after his father sold the family drywall business, Pierre was asked to come to the racetrack as an agent for a couple friends who were jockeys.

“I didn't know what a condition book was,” Pierre admitted. “I got there very green, and I didn't know what to expect, but I started off with two jockeys who were well-known and well-received. I was quickly accepted by the trainers and the racing office, and I learned fast. I was fortunate to have a good stable of jockeys through the next 12 years, and we won multiple leading rider titles around New Mexico.”

Among the riders Pierre represented were Kent Koyle, Steve Renteria, Flavio Martinez, Rick Houghton, and Louie Figueroa, among others.
In 1979, Pierre met his future wife at Turf Paradise. Leslie, also a native of Albuquerque, was a national champion hunter/jumper at age 17, but had switched to racehorses after high school.

When the New Mexico racing industry began to decline, the couple moved away from the racetrack in 1988, resuming work in the construction business with Pierre's father. Both found that they missed that day-to-day connection with horses.

Pierre and Leslie bought Lobo Farm in Paris, Ky., in 2000, breeding mares, pinhooking yearlings, and reconnecting with the animals they loved. Unfortunately, the recession forced the sale of the farm in 2010.

Racinos had come to New Mexico in the meantime, so purses and, thus, the entire state's horse racing industry were on the upswing. The Amestoys had already begun running a lot more New Mexico-breds, both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, and enjoyed quite a bit of success.

Perhaps the most recognizable name was that of First Moonflash. Pierre purchased the Quarter Horse as a yearling for $55,000 in 2006, and he would go on to win 18 of 25, including seven Grade 1 races, and earn just shy of $1 million.

In 2008, First Moonflash set his first world record when he went 400 yards at Sunland Park in 18.735 seconds.

First Moonflash set three more world records at Sunland Park in 2009: 350 yards in 16.715 seconds; 440 yards in 20.685 seconds; and 440 yards in 20.274 seconds, breaking his own previous world record. That same year, First Moonflash set a new track record at Albuquerque for 440 yards in :20.979 seconds.

At stud, First Moonflash's first crop produced the winner of the $2.6 million All American Futurity (G1), Handsome Jack Flash.

However, it was a cross on a Thoroughbred mare that would eventually lead the Amestoys into the world of high-class Thoroughbred racing. Roger Beasley owned a Southern Halo mare named Mi Camila. A foal-sharing agreement with the Amestoys led to a 2016 gelding by First Moonflash named Freedom Flash, who would go on to win a Grade 2 and become an 870-yard specialist, earning $417,301 thus far. A full sister was born in 2017, Mi Moonflash, who has collected multiple stakes wins and a Grade 3 placing for earnings of $315,357.

“We have a great relationship with Roger,” Pierre said. “He called me last February and said, 'Let's go get a couple of Thoroughbreds, something for the big races.' That led to the trip to Ocala.”

That trip actually led to the purchase of four 2-year-olds. Along with Practical Move, the Amestoys and Beasley partnered on a colt by Valiant Minister and a filly by Girvin.

In fact, the Girvin filly, named Blessed Touch, also turned in a big performance on the same weekend Practical Move won the San Felipe. She finished third in the G3 Santa Ysabel Stakes, earning 15 points toward the Kentucky Oaks.

The Amestoys also partnered with longtime friend Mike Abraham at that Ocala sale, buying a colt by Munnings. While Neiman has yet to start, it was the connection with Abraham that led the Amestoys to trainer Tim Yakteen.

“I asked Mike, 'Who do you know in California that doesn't have 150 or 200 head, somebody hands-on?'” Amestoy recalled. “He knew Tim, but called Jaime Gomez (a Quarter Horse trainer at Los Alamitos), and Gomez recommended Tim as well. This was before he kind of came to the forefront with the Baffert horses last year.

“He is a hands-on trainer, always watching and clocking all his own horses. He's also as good a guy as you can meet: he's trustworthy, honest, and he communicates with us.”

Pierre decided to send Practical Move and Blessed Touch to Yakteen, and the trainer has worked to develop them into promising racehorses.

“The first couple of races, (Practical Move) was green and didn't know how to switch leads,” Pierre said. “Tim has brought him along perfectly and has taught him, and now he's finishing like we expected he could finish.”

After the Los Alamitos Futurity win, Yakteen gave Practical Move a 30-day break during which the colt matured and put on weight. Heading into the San Felipe, Yakteen was very confident.

“He was getting better and better, and Tim's confidence before the race rubbed off on us,” Pierre said. “We thought we had a good enough horse to win it; it was just whether we got a good trip or not!”

Meeting jockey Ramon Vazquez for the first time in the paddock, the former jockey agent had just a few words of advice before the San Felipe.

“I said, 'Get him up close enough that you're not gonna get in trouble, and come out of that turn with a free run,'” Pierre remembered. “It couldn't have worked out any better, and Ramon is confident in him now.”

“He is a phenomenally gifted horse,” Yakteen said after the San Felipe. “I am amazed at how strong he is and how he has matured from a 2-year-old to a 3-year-old. Everything has fallen into place.”

The plan now calls for Practical Move to start in the Santa Anita Derby on April 8 before heading to Kentucky.

“We think we have enough points to get to Kentucky already,” Pierre said. “Leslie is busy finding an AirBnB, because we have lots of family and friends that want to come!”

Pierre hasn't attended the Kentucky Derby before, though he's been to Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup a couple times. Leslie did attend one Derby with a friend, but now the couple will get to show up as Derby owners.

“We've won a lot of races in New Mexico, had a couple of Quarter Horse champions, but he is the biggest thing we've got going,” Pierre said. “We are super excited, and we think he's that kind. We are ready to go all the way.”

Practical Move, with jockey Ramon Vazquez aboard, wins the G2 San Felipe
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